At its first official public meeting Tuesday, the 2020-2023 Loudoun County School Board voted to reinstate bus transportation for Loudoun-based students at Alexandria's Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology and to remove the 50-person cap on Loudoun ninth-graders entering the school next year.
The previous board during its May 28, 2019, meeting voted to extend Loudoun County Public Schools' contract with Fairfax County Public Schools that allows LCPS to keep sending students to the prestigious TJ. Chris Croll, the Catoctin District representative at the time, proposed the two amendments that would discontinue bus transportation and implement the enrollment cap. Both amendments were approved by 5-4 votes.
Jeff Morse, who chaired the previous board and still represents the Dulles District, opposed both of Croll's amendments and requested that information regarding the enrollment cap and transportation adjustments be added to Tuesday's information agenda.
Morse then moved to suspend the rules so the board might vote on whether to reverse the transportation and enrollment adjustments.
"The reason behind that is the time criticality in getting this information to Fairfax County so that they can adjust their approval of the incoming ninth graders," he said.
The motion, which required a two-thirds majority for approval, carried unanimously, with Leslee King (Broad Run District) participating via telephone.
After Morse moved to remove the enrollment cap and reinstate bus transportation for Loudoun students, several representatives commented in support of the move. Harris Mahedavi (Ashburn District) expressed his belief that affording Loudoun students ample access to Thomas Jefferson is a means by which to maximize their STEM education options.
"If our students, our children, have access to the No. 1 school in the country, why not?" he said. TJ is No. 4 in the U.S. News & World Report 2019 rankings of U.S. high schools.
"I've heard constant frustration from members of my community regarding the lack of seats at the Academies [of Loudoun]. A cap on TJ is simply going to make this worse," Beth Barts (Leesburg District) said. When Barts asked about the financial burden of reinstating bus transportation, Department of Support Services Assistant Superintendent Kevin Lewis said the yearly cost would be approximately $540,000.
While Vice Chairwoman Atoosa Reaser (Algonkian District) voiced her support for removing the enrollment cap, she said she would refrain from voting on the measure because one of her children attends TJ.
Chairwoman Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District) called for the final vote, and the board approved the changes 8-0-1, with Reaser abstaining.
Though it's outside usual boardroom decorum, Sheridan allowed applause from satisfied spectators. "You can go ahead and clap that time, I don't mind," she said. "That was a big one."